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In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks--writer, teacher, and insurgent black intellectual--writes about a new kind of education, educations as the practice of freedom. Teaching students to "transgress" against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom is, for hooks, the teacher's most important goal. Bell hooks speaks to the heart of educat In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks--writer, teacher, and insurgent black intellectual--writes about a new kind of education, educations as the practice of freedom. Teaching students to "transgress" against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom is, for hooks, the teacher's most important goal. Bell hooks speaks to the heart of education today: how can we rethink teaching practices in the age of multiculturalism? What do we do about teachers who do not want to teach, and students who do not want to learn? How should we deal with racism and sexism in the classroom? Full of passion and politics, Teaching to Transgress combines practical knowledge of the classroom with a deeply felt connection to the world of emotions and feelings. This is the rare book about teachers and students that dares to raise critical questions about eros and rage, grief and reconciliation, and the future o teaching its self. "To educate as the practice of freedom," writes bell hooks, "is a way of teaching that any one can learn." Teaching to Transgress is the record of one gifted teacher's struggle to make classrooms work. -from the back of the book


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In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks--writer, teacher, and insurgent black intellectual--writes about a new kind of education, educations as the practice of freedom. Teaching students to "transgress" against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom is, for hooks, the teacher's most important goal. Bell hooks speaks to the heart of educat In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks--writer, teacher, and insurgent black intellectual--writes about a new kind of education, educations as the practice of freedom. Teaching students to "transgress" against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom is, for hooks, the teacher's most important goal. Bell hooks speaks to the heart of education today: how can we rethink teaching practices in the age of multiculturalism? What do we do about teachers who do not want to teach, and students who do not want to learn? How should we deal with racism and sexism in the classroom? Full of passion and politics, Teaching to Transgress combines practical knowledge of the classroom with a deeply felt connection to the world of emotions and feelings. This is the rare book about teachers and students that dares to raise critical questions about eros and rage, grief and reconciliation, and the future o teaching its self. "To educate as the practice of freedom," writes bell hooks, "is a way of teaching that any one can learn." Teaching to Transgress is the record of one gifted teacher's struggle to make classrooms work. -from the back of the book

30 review for Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

  1. 5 out of 5

    E

    Teaching to Transgress is probably a book every person in a putative position of authority should read – not just teachers, but parents, coaches, community leaders etc. It’s accessible, passionate, quick to read, and offers a refreshing conception of education as something that’s not politically neutral and shouldn’t be about just gaining marketable skills to get a job. I loved hooks’ distinction between the feminist classroom and the Women’s Studies classroom, her approach that calls for equali Teaching to Transgress is probably a book every person in a putative position of authority should read – not just teachers, but parents, coaches, community leaders etc. It’s accessible, passionate, quick to read, and offers a refreshing conception of education as something that’s not politically neutral and shouldn’t be about just gaining marketable skills to get a job. I loved hooks’ distinction between the feminist classroom and the Women’s Studies classroom, her approach that calls for equalizing (neutralizing?) power relations between student and teacher, and her rejection of the banking approach to learning. These ideas weren’t new to me, but I appreciate how straightforwardly they were presented, and I'm glad I've read it. Where hooks somewhat lost me was in some of her expectations and methods, particularly around her desire to erase the separation between public and private and to always bring the body into the classroom. There’s surely some very legitimate criticism about people who claim to hold certain political positions but don’t actually put them into practice on a daily basis, which is something I and everyone I know struggle with. But hooks isn’t only writing about being politically consistent; she’s calling for the annihilation of personal boundaries in order to attain some kind of “self-actualization” and heal what she perceives to be the “mind/body/spirit” split of the "wounded educator." Early in the book she states that she expects her students to take the risk of “confessing” personal narratives to their classmates in order to stay registered in her courses, but doesn't acknowledge the danger of recounting sensitive, potentially traumatic details when there’s no guarantee that they'll be received well or even stay within the walls of the classroom. This anxiety and pain is necessary, according to hooks, in order to heal and to learn. Perhaps I’m too jaded and suspicious of the purity of others’ intentions but I’d never willingly put myself in a situation that could have direct and long-lasting negative effects on my psychological or even physical wellbeing, yet hooks doesn’t allow for principled opposition to that kind of mandatory disclosure; I'd be a "resisting" student to her. My other major cause for pause is with how hooks suggests teachers execute this approach to teaching, insofar as she assumes visibility is something that’s always desirable. I can see how this could be true in many, perhaps even most cases, and it’s something I try to keep an eye on in my own teaching, but I’m unconvinced that it’s a uniformly good thing. I mean this with respect to power dynamics, but also more plainly. To take an example from my own education, the best experience of my entire undergraduate degree was a course on the philosophy of science taught by a man who was obsessed with Plato’s cave allegory and Eric Voegelin, and as disdainful of absolutist empiricism as he was of postmodern relativism. Twice a week, first thing in the morning, he lectured for the full 75 minutes and never deliberately encouraged student participation. hooks would, I suspect, consider this a travesty – and yet I learned more about myself sitting there and listening to someone who I’m sure would be horrified by my politics but who made epistemology and ontology utterly fascinating. Because I know he wouldn’t call on me, because I knew he didn’t even know my name until the end of the first term, I was able to sit there and absorb, reflect on, assess and critique everything he said on my own terms and without feeling visible. Now, I’m perfectly willing to admit that a lot of these criticisms are about individual learning preferences and my own solitary nature, and maybe my issues are ultimately more about personal style than political positions. Still, I don't think visibility is an unmitigated good, nor can I imagine a situation where it would be appropriate for a student to start to dance with me to apologize for coming in late (“I remember the day he came to class late and came right up to the front, picked me up and whirled me around. The class laughed. I called him ‘fool’ and laughed. It was by way of apologizing for being late, for missing any moment of classroom passion. And so he brought his own moment. I, too, love to dance. And so we danced our way into the future as comrades and friends bound by all we had learned.”). I’ll heed hooks’ own advice to take the good and leave it at that.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Some of the earlier essays felt too academic and jargony, but I think this book is a must-read for all teachers. It made me change the way I think about the classroom, my role in it, and about how power works in those spaces. There was one particular essay that I loved--about the false dichotomy between theory and practice. She pushes back against activists who say that they have no time for theory and that they would rather just do the work. She says, essentially, that we are all operating unde Some of the earlier essays felt too academic and jargony, but I think this book is a must-read for all teachers. It made me change the way I think about the classroom, my role in it, and about how power works in those spaces. There was one particular essay that I loved--about the false dichotomy between theory and practice. She pushes back against activists who say that they have no time for theory and that they would rather just do the work. She says, essentially, that we are all operating under some theory even when we don't talk about it. So in order to perform the work better, we need to engage with the theory as well. That seems right to me. There were many passages in here that I think I will keep thinking about--not just as a teacher, but as a person who is interested in ideas.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Meagen Farrell

    This book renewed my passion for teaching, especially in light of the constant rhetoric of adult education existing to create an efficient economic pipeline. It reminded me at a critical time that I am not the only one who believes education of marginalized people can--and should--be something more. I found that hooks had articulated many things I felt & experienced but could not name, which proves her point about the power of theory. Chapter 3 in particular is critical reading for anyone teachi This book renewed my passion for teaching, especially in light of the constant rhetoric of adult education existing to create an efficient economic pipeline. It reminded me at a critical time that I am not the only one who believes education of marginalized people can--and should--be something more. I found that hooks had articulated many things I felt & experienced but could not name, which proves her point about the power of theory. Chapter 3 in particular is critical reading for anyone teaching in a multicultural setting. Through stories and dialogue, hooks explores how the intersection of theory, identity, teaching, and injustice is experienced in postsecondary classrooms. She offers a theoretical framework & practical skills that she has successfully used to create an engaging, inclusive classroom. My one warning is that as a pioneer in stepping out from behind the podium, hooks' approach feels incomplete. I think teachers can do more beyond just transforming content or teaching methods by designing learning that helps students focus & apply their reflections & skills to their own context, which hooks confesses having struggled with. However, this does not diminish the fact that hooks offers an important critical & historic perspective in an extremely easy to read format.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    "The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Foppe

    Overall, a quite stimulating read. The first few essays somewhat less so (partly because I am not American, and haven't lived there), but starting with the fifth essay, quite a lot of what hooks talks about resonated.* The overall theme is rethinking education practices (for teachers), and one's own expectations (and behavior/stance) as a student, given that both contribute to the environment and atmosphere of the classroom, influencing how and what we learn -- by which I mean both the material Overall, a quite stimulating read. The first few essays somewhat less so (partly because I am not American, and haven't lived there), but starting with the fifth essay, quite a lot of what hooks talks about resonated.* The overall theme is rethinking education practices (for teachers), and one's own expectations (and behavior/stance) as a student, given that both contribute to the environment and atmosphere of the classroom, influencing how and what we learn -- by which I mean both the material you read and discuss, and the group and interpersonal dynamics that are produced and reproduced: how teachers and students treat one another, how the issue of power is handled, how much room there is for different viewpoints, and how class expectations feature in, when it comes to the question what kind of behavior and viewpoints are deemed acceptable, and which are taboo. To give you a sense of the kinds of things hooks draws attention to, and her writing style, I'd like to cite her at some length, before adding brief thoughts of my own. Firstly, I'd like to draw your attention to a point she makes related to the issue of who gets to speak, and how that opportunity to speak is created, as I'd never seen anyone make this point, even though the behavior she's commenting on back in/around 1994 has by now become quite pervasive. Responding to an academic and teacher decrying attempts by minority students to silence those who have a different background, hooks writes: According to Fuss, issues of “essence, identity, and experience ”erupt in the classroom primarily because of the critical in put from marginalized groups. Throughout her chapter, whenever she offers an example of individuals who use essentialist standpoints to dominate discussion, to silence others via their invocation of the “authority of experience,” they are members of groups who historically have been and are oppressed and exploited in this society. Fuss does not address how systems of domination already at work in the academy and the classroom silence the voices of individuals from marginalized groups and give space only when on the basis of experience it is demanded. She does not suggest that the very discursive practices that allow for the assertion of the “authority of experience ” have already been determined by a politics of race, sex, and class domination. Fuss does not aggressively suggest that dominant groupsmen, white people, heterosexuals -- perpetuate essentialism. In her narrative it is always a marginal “o the r” who is essentialist. Yet the politics of essentialist exclusion as a means of asserting presence, identity, is a cultural practice that does not emerge solely from marginalized groups. And when those groups do employ essentialism as a way to dominate in institutional settings, they are often imitating paradigms for asserting subjectivity that are part of the controlling apparatus in structures of domination. Certainly many white male students have brought to my classroom an insistence on the authority of experience, one that enables them to feel that anything they have to say is worth hearing, that indeed their ideas and experience should be the central focus of classroom discussion. The politics of race and gender within white supremacist patriarchy grants them this “authority” without their having to name the desire for it. They do not attend class and say, “I think that I am superior intellectually to my class mates because I am white and male and that my experiences are much more important than any other group’s.” And yet their behavior often announces this way of thinking about identity, essence, subjectivity. ... [W]hile I, too, critique the use of essentialism and identity politics as a strategy for exclusion or domination, I am suspicious when theories call this practice harmful as a way of suggesting that it is a strategy only marginalized groups employ. My suspicion is rooted in the awareness that a critique of essentialism that challenges only marginalized groups to interrogate their use of identity politics or an essentialist standpoint as a means of exerting coercive power leaves unquestioned the critical practices of other groups who employ the same strategies in different ways and whose exclusionary behavior may be firmly buttressed by institutionalized structures of domination that do not critique or check it. At the same time, I am concerned that critiques of identity politics not serve as the new, chic way to silence students from marginal groups. Fuss makes the point that “the artificial boundary between insider and outsider necessarily contains rather than disseminates know ledge.” While I share this perception, I am disturbed that she never acknowledges that racism, sexism, and class elitism shape the structure of classrooms, creating a lived reality of insider versus outsider that is predetermined, often in place before any class discussion begins. There is rarely any need for marginalized groups to bring this binary opposition into the classroom because it is usually already operating. They may simply use it in the service of their concerns. Looked at from a sympathetic standpoint, the assertion of an excluding essentialism on the part of students from marginalized groups can be a strategic response to domination and to colonization, a survival strategy that may indeed inhibit discussion even as it rescues those students from negation. More succinctly put, if people weren't raised and trained to be sensitive to attempts to claim the conversation, such attempts (which are so jarring to white people when minorities make use of them) wouldn't work, and those minorities wouldn't have picked up those strategies (by osmosis, from living in a society in which hierarchy and exclusion are the norm) in the first place. People adopt strategies because they work for them, at least most of the time. And if others using said strategies annoys you, then that's a good indication you should avoid making use of it yourself (and if it is unclear how you are, ask others for feedback, so you can learn from that). Essay 7 is about feminist solidarity; what that might mean, and how we can get there. In it, hooks discusses some of the history and consequences of the fact that the (academic) feminist movement long (mostly) ignored questions of class and race, focusing on the issue of (middle class) white women's role in the subjugation and repression of black women especially. And she points out that this silence made -- and still makes -- it hard for lower class and minority women to take feminism seriously, as it did not (and -- as far as I can tell -- by and large still doesn't) deal with those issues. As an aside, the historical discussion hooks offers, provides a nice illustration of a number of points Corey Robin talks about in his introduction to The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. In it, he both illustrates how pernicious and strong the belief in the "rightness" of hierarchy as an organizing principle is, and points out that slavery was purposely "democratized" in the antebellum South precisely to give poor whites a "stake" in slavery, by giving everyone a "taste" of rule. Hooks' discussion of how this affected the relationship between white women and their "servants" forms an interesting illustration of how that worked 'on the ground'. This relates to a last point hooks raises, namely that if one wants to succeed and be accepted in college and university (especially when hooks wrote this), it is nearly required to adopt (most) middle class / bourgeois values, attitudes, mannerisms, and to some extent even speech patterns; and that the values that you have to adopt (and that are considered the norm) tend to make it harder to have discussions about (politically) sensitive topics, because of how central being perceived as 'nice' and 'reasonable', and how accepted tone policing and other attempts to silence are: Significantly, feminist classrooms were the first spaces in the university where I encountered any attempt to acknowledge class difference. The focus was usually on the way class differences are structured in the larger society, not on our class position. Yet the focus on gender privilege in patriarchal society often meant that there was a recognition of the ways women were economically disenfranchised and therefore more likely to be poor or working class. Often, the feminist classroom was the only place where students (mostly female) from materially disadvantaged circumstances would speak from that class positionality, acknowledging both the impact of class on our social status as well as critiquing the class biases of feminist thought. When I first entered university settings I felt estranged from this new environment. Like most of my peers and professors, I initially believed those feelings were there because of differences in racial and cultural background. However, as time passed it was more evident that this estrangement was in part a reflection of class difference. At Stanford, I was often asked by peers and professors if I was there on a scholarship. Underlying this question was the implication that receiving financial aid “diminished” one in some way. It was not just this experience that intensified my awareness of class difference, it was the constant evocation of materially privileged class experience (usually that of the middle class) as a universal norm that not only set those of us from working-class backgrounds apart but effectively excluded those who were not privileged from discussions, from social activities. To avoid feelings of estrangement, students from working-class backgrounds could assimilate into the mainstream, change speech patterns, points of reference, drop any habit that might reveal them to be from a nonmaterially privileged background. Of course I entered college hoping that a university degree would enhance my class mobility. Yet I thought of this solely in economic terms. Early on I did not realize that class was much more than one’s economic standing, that it determined values, standpoint, and interests. It was assumed that any student coming from a poor or working-class background would willingly surrender all values and habits of being associated with this background. Those of us from diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds learned that no aspect of our vernacular culture could be voiced in elite settings. This was especially the case with vernacular language or a first language that was not English. To insist on speaking in any manner that did not conform to privileged class ideals and mannerisms placed one always in the position of interloper. Demands that individuals from class backgrounds deemed undesirable surrender all vestiges of their past create psychic turmoil. We were encouraged, as many students are today, to betray our class origins. Rewarded if we chose to assimilate, estranged if we chose to maintain those aspects of who we were, some were all too often seen as outsiders. Some of us rebelled by clinging to exaggerated manners and behavior clearly marked as outside the accepted bourgeois norm. During my student years, and now as a professor, I see many students from “undesirable” class backgrounds become unable to complete their studies because the contradictions between the behavior necessary to “make it” in the academy and those that allowed them to be comfortable at home, with their families and friends, are just too great. Often, African Americans are among those students I teach from poor and working-class backgrounds who are most vocal about issues of class. They express frustration, anger, and sadness about the tensions and stress they experience trying to conform to acceptable white, middle-class behaviors in university settings while retaining the ability to “deal” at home. Sharing strategies for coping from my own experience, I encourage students to reject the notion that they must choose between experiences. They must believe they can inhabit comfortably two different worlds, but they must make each space one of comfort. They must creatively invent ways to cross borders. They must believe in their capacity to alter the bourgeois settings they enter. All too often, students from nonmaterially privileged backgrounds assume a position of passivity -- they behave as victims, as though they can only be acted up on against their will. Ultimately, they end up feeling they can only reject or accept the norms imposed up on them. This either /or often sets them up for disappointment and failure. I found it a very fruitful read; and if these things strike you as worthwhile topics to think about, do pick it up yourself. :) *Even though the book was written in 1994, and we're now more than 20 years -- a full generation -- further down the road, a lot of the issues she mentions have gotten worse rather than better, because of impoverishment of much of the population on the one hand, and the cuts to the educational system on the other.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    This is the first book of hooks' that I've read—a collection of stand-alone essays in which she reflects on the concept of pedagogy as liberation. Essay collections are almost always a mixed bag and there are some in here that didn't work for me—the one that's structured as a dialogue between her and her writing pseudonym, or the rather uncomfortable one on eros in the classroom (that one needed a lot of teasing out and consideration of agape, philia, storge, and a hell of a lot more nuance and This is the first book of hooks' that I've read—a collection of stand-alone essays in which she reflects on the concept of pedagogy as liberation. Essay collections are almost always a mixed bag and there are some in here that didn't work for me—the one that's structured as a dialogue between her and her writing pseudonym, or the rather uncomfortable one on eros in the classroom (that one needed a lot of teasing out and consideration of agape, philia, storge, and a hell of a lot more nuance and acknowledgement of the power differentials and potentials for abuse within what she's advocating). Yet there are other essays here which are powerful and (sadly) still relevant more than twenty years after the collection was first published. Definitely recommended for those doing work in the college classroom.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    Whew. This book is magnificent. If you're into critical/feminist pedagogy this truly is a must read. Unlike Pedagogy of the Oppressed, hooks writes in a way that's accessible and understandable (a point she discusses). I wish sleeping with this under my pillow would allow her wisdom to permanently make home in my brain and in result my teaching practice. I'm a listener by nature, but the way she spoke about race and whiteness calls even a deeper sense of listening within me. I highlighted the he Whew. This book is magnificent. If you're into critical/feminist pedagogy this truly is a must read. Unlike Pedagogy of the Oppressed, hooks writes in a way that's accessible and understandable (a point she discusses). I wish sleeping with this under my pillow would allow her wisdom to permanently make home in my brain and in result my teaching practice. I'm a listener by nature, but the way she spoke about race and whiteness calls even a deeper sense of listening within me. I highlighted the hell out of this and am even tempted to make print outs of quotes and put them all over my office.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I have been dedicated to feminist, liberatory pedagogy since I began to teach, but admittedly I never read much about it, its development, its history, and how it used by others. My own feminist praxis informed my teaching and my commitment to create an environment which was non-hierarchal, which elevated the voices of the subjugated, and which created communities of love, respect, and critical inquiry. Going to hooks at this moment in my career was motivated by a desire to deepen that commitmen I have been dedicated to feminist, liberatory pedagogy since I began to teach, but admittedly I never read much about it, its development, its history, and how it used by others. My own feminist praxis informed my teaching and my commitment to create an environment which was non-hierarchal, which elevated the voices of the subjugated, and which created communities of love, respect, and critical inquiry. Going to hooks at this moment in my career was motivated by a desire to deepen that commitment, to reflect, and to strengthen that praxis with theory. The "engaged pedagogy" she details in this book is inspiring, militantly feminist and anti-racist, and radically transformative. I wish I had more teachers like her and the authors who inspired her like Freire rather than many of the dictators (to use her terminology) who use education as a pretext to dominate, to bully, and to force their students into conformity. Will that type of "education" only be abolished once white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy goes as well? Some of the most interesting parts of Teaching to Transgress autobiographically document her own education, how she found liberation despite the constant humiliations many of teachers subjected her to because of race, gender, and class. hooks is convinced that both teachers and their students must work to be self-actualized, must work to be present in education in their minds, bodies, and spirits and that shows through her willingness to open herself and history up to her students and her audience. Education is personal and political growth.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Princess

    Sometimes you read a book that manages somehow to articulate intuitions you've always had. And sometimes that book goes a step further, and challenges your view of the world or your understanding of your place in it. Three things in particular I will take from this book: (1) education as the practice of freedom is actually education as a process of self-actualization,(2) coming to critical awareness can be a painful process; there is always conflict in spaces of unlearning, and (3) with critical Sometimes you read a book that manages somehow to articulate intuitions you've always had. And sometimes that book goes a step further, and challenges your view of the world or your understanding of your place in it. Three things in particular I will take from this book: (1) education as the practice of freedom is actually education as a process of self-actualization,(2) coming to critical awareness can be a painful process; there is always conflict in spaces of unlearning, and (3) with critical awareness, must come praxis, that is, action and reflection; what good is critical awareness if we do not immediately put that awareness to work in the world? This is a powerful book. Definitely re-readable.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    A great book that really makes you think about your role as a student (or a teacher) in the classroom. There were times that Ms. hooks' words made me uncomfortable because of the truth they carried. At times I do feel that the more I know and learn about feminism, the less I can enjoy certain things. It's not because I don't consider myself a feminist but because so many people engage in offensive, degrading behavior and expect to be rewarded for it. Unlearning sexism and racism can result in a A great book that really makes you think about your role as a student (or a teacher) in the classroom. There were times that Ms. hooks' words made me uncomfortable because of the truth they carried. At times I do feel that the more I know and learn about feminism, the less I can enjoy certain things. It's not because I don't consider myself a feminist but because so many people engage in offensive, degrading behavior and expect to be rewarded for it. Unlearning sexism and racism can result in a painful process, but the rewards are plentiful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    bell hooks is one of those authors whose work, even when 25 years old as this one is, seldom fails to invoke and inspire. One of the major names in contemporary cultural theory and analysis, a literary scholar of considerable impact and a leading figure in black feminist theory, her writing is notable for its accessibility as essays for general audiences. This collection opens with a confession, that she never saw herself as becoming a teacher – she expected to teach, but only as a way to suppor bell hooks is one of those authors whose work, even when 25 years old as this one is, seldom fails to invoke and inspire. One of the major names in contemporary cultural theory and analysis, a literary scholar of considerable impact and a leading figure in black feminist theory, her writing is notable for its accessibility as essays for general audiences. This collection opens with a confession, that she never saw herself as becoming a teacher – she expected to teach, but only as a way to support her work as a writer. The distinction is important, and in academic settings profound. More significantly, the confession matters, granting insight to her pedagogy by bringing home the ‘teacherliness’ of much of her writing as personal confession becomes a means to unpack and explore wider questions of identity, of voice, of fit and of the dynamics of relations with students in a learning/teaching community. Considering education as the practice of freedom puts it at odds with dominant tendencies in schooling and education, where ‘education’ is increasingly conflated with ‘training’, where we teach to the test because that gets the best results and therefore elevates institutional rankings in league tables – all the while we are on the end of rhetorical imprecations to ‘teach’ critical thinking. It doesn’t long to realise that the critical thinking the powers that be want is limited to ways to enhance the current social and cultural order, not to change it. Not surprisingly, this is not hooks’ world or vision. She draws on work by Paulo Friere to highlight the limitations of this approach – he called it a ‘banking’ system where we as teachers deposit in students information they will later need: it is a powerfully difficult approach to shake off, even for critical thinkers where our disruptive content is often developed in class in a manner than retains the conventions of the power of the teacher and the receptiveness of the student. She repeatedly reminds us that critical content is not the same as critical pedagogy, and that giving up the power is unsettling, while critical pedagogy that draws on the voices, knowledges and experiences of students is exhausting. I have often heard students and teachers complain that a class was hard work (I have done the same): hooks reminds us it is supposed to be. Learning critical thinking and analysis is exhausting because it unsettles what we take for granted within and beyond the classroom. Central to her idea of engaged pedagogy is that it goes beyond conventional forms of critical or feminist pedagogy – both of which she draws on here – by being socially engaged in a manner that deals with the well-being of students and teachers, striving to become whole people. She talks about self-actualisation in a way that seems to me to draw on ideas of overcoming alienation (in both Marxist and psychoanalytic terms) where the dialogues and dynamics of teaching as an interactive process enhances all of those involved. Of course, she notes, this doesn’t mean equality – in formal teaching settings we as teachers still grade, still mark, still determine results and often shape the outline if not the specifics of any programme of study. The collection is very good on the takens for granted of study and the academy, on the cultural norms and mores seldom seen by those on the inside, on the ways these norms and mores alienate and exclude, on the ways those excluded by race, class, gender or other hierarchies of Power adapt themselves to those cultural codes. One of the highpoints of the collection is a dialogue with fellow New York academic Ron Scapp, a philosopher, building on the observation by Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren that pedagogy on cultural studies requires combination of “theory and practice in order to affirms and demonstrate pedagogical practices engaged in creating a new language, rupturing disciplinary boundaries, decentering authority, and rewriting the institutional and discursive borderlands in which politics becomes a condition for reasserting the relationship between agency, power, and struggle.” (p129) Picking up on this Scapp & hooks discuss how we and they build teaching communities, with their students, with their colleagues and in the face of inertia and institutional resistance; it is the longest essay and in may ways the one most directed at the specifics of classroom practice. This dialogue can be juxtaposed to the book’s other dialogue where hooks discusses her approaches to teaching and learning with Gloria Watkins (her birth name); it is a delightfully playful dialogue exploring and traversing Friere, his impact on hooks, the critiques of his gender blindness, his reflection on those critiques and the ways hooks works with what we’d now call intersectional analyses and positionalities in developing her pedagogy. The essays throughout the collection are, like this ‘dialogue’ invigorating and inspiring, analytically rich and clearly articulated, asserting hooks’ celebration of teaching as essential to her practice, not only as a means to fund writing. She concludes with a powerful summation: The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labour for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. (p 207) I had delved into some of these essays, but to read them over to cover reveals a richness and value making the whole more than the sum of its parts: essential reading for teachers and students.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gracie Hopkins

    I don’t know what it is about reading bell hooks but it feels like you’re talking to a friend. She speaks in a way that makes me want to understand the world better and she writes in a way that makes me want to pick up a pen and write it all down.

  13. 5 out of 5

    J

    This book is still so relevant for our work s educators in the classroom.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    Though this is an important book for teachers to consider, I found myself somewhat disappointed. hooks definition of transgressive teaching, and critical pedagogy for that matter, are just too different from mine. Her critical work seems more what Alastair Pennycook calls "emancipatory modernism," which comes dangerously close to the missionary mindset so often criticized by critical pedagogues. I have nothing against hooks pedagogy, but my goal as a critical scholar is to question the systems o Though this is an important book for teachers to consider, I found myself somewhat disappointed. hooks definition of transgressive teaching, and critical pedagogy for that matter, are just too different from mine. Her critical work seems more what Alastair Pennycook calls "emancipatory modernism," which comes dangerously close to the missionary mindset so often criticized by critical pedagogues. I have nothing against hooks pedagogy, but my goal as a critical scholar is to question the systems of thought that produce differences . . . and preferably find new ways of thinking. There must always be an element of renewal and generation within transgressive approaches to theory and pedagogy. That being said, the last few chapters are useful to get teacher's thinking about how to transgress the assumptions behind the universal, liberal subject (which is bodiless, classless, and speaks a perfect English). hooks deliberately transgress these assumptions by bringing the body, class, and diverse languages back into the classroom.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    bell hooks is someone whose influence is everywhere, even if her name isn't. Any time the concept of intersectionality is invoked in the blogosphere, or an educator writes an article in Salon or Slate about the need for an educational method that addresses the needs of working-class youth, you can trace a direct line to hooks' thought, and Teaching to Transgress evidences all of these connections. She writes not only from a theoretical perspective, but places it firmly in her experiences both as bell hooks is someone whose influence is everywhere, even if her name isn't. Any time the concept of intersectionality is invoked in the blogosphere, or an educator writes an article in Salon or Slate about the need for an educational method that addresses the needs of working-class youth, you can trace a direct line to hooks' thought, and Teaching to Transgress evidences all of these connections. She writes not only from a theoretical perspective, but places it firmly in her experiences both as a student and as an educator, and the practices of countless others. The result is a book about education that celebrates the open classroom, but at the same time demands academic rigor. Likewise, she demands that educators not only pay lip service to radical approaches to pedagogy, but also put it into practice in their classrooms. It's a vision I find it hard not to get on board with. As with the best theory books, it helped me expose some blind spots in my own thought, which, in my mind, is the highest praise I can give to a critical theorist.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine

    An important book for teachers concerned about the impact (anti-oppression or the opposite) of our teaching. Very dense so I will just share one idea that I take away: I've tended to think about anti-oppression education in terms of the content that the teacher presents and that the class learns. hooks argues that *how* you teach and the dynamics of the educational space you (help) create are just as important as content in creating a classroom where education can be...well, freedom.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fleur

    I think this is my favourite hooks book so far!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ana Yarí

    When I was in grad school I was always acutely aware of the ways that set me apart. Many people from marginalized communities have written extensively about similar experiences: these programs are not made for us. Teaching to Transgress along with Pedagogy of the Oppressed offers a view and a guide to making higher education more accessible. The term "engaged pedagogy" suggests a model opposite of the banking teaching method where teacher and student learn together from each other. Visiting t When I was in grad school I was always acutely aware of the ways that set me apart. Many people from marginalized communities have written extensively about similar experiences: these programs are not made for us. Teaching to Transgress along with Pedagogy of the Oppressed offers a view and a guide to making higher education more accessible. The term "engaged pedagogy" suggests a model opposite of the banking teaching method where teacher and student learn together from each other. Visiting these formative texts in my thinking and development this year have been necessary tools for me in the conversations that arise during our current political climate. I find the notions and ideas that hooks, Freire, etc. develop help me express the frustrations and anger from marginalized people. I find them, moreover, more useful when talking to more liberal leaning people, who have good intentions but certain blindspots. As with the engaged pedagogy model, I find these conversations are mutually beneficial and the collaboration to learn and discuss leads to better understanding in general. But like the engaged pedagogy model there is a high level of frustration when attempting to break through people's unknown prejudices. Presenting challenging ideas can be, well, challenging but books like Teaching to Transgress helps in the process of not just providing a method but also provides encouragement. While I definitely recommend this book to educators, it's a useful tool for anyone wanting to engage thoughtfully with people of different marginalized communities. We're all in this together, we might as well learn how to communicate with and learn from one another.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dominic

    One of my most cherished professional experiences is sharing a few moments of conversation sitting next to THE bell hooks--no joke!--in 2004 at the National Council of Teachers of English. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a front row guy--whether I am at a concert or an author reading, you'll find me close to the stage. So I had gotten to the event early and was rereading *Teaching to Transgress* when up walks bell and takes a seat next to me. bell hooks has had a profound impact on my trajecto One of my most cherished professional experiences is sharing a few moments of conversation sitting next to THE bell hooks--no joke!--in 2004 at the National Council of Teachers of English. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a front row guy--whether I am at a concert or an author reading, you'll find me close to the stage. So I had gotten to the event early and was rereading *Teaching to Transgress* when up walks bell and takes a seat next to me. bell hooks has had a profound impact on my trajectory as a teacher and activist within education. The commitment to justice is not a well worn path and it will get you into some trouble along the way, but it is definitely "good trouble." *Teaching to Transgress* was actually published in 1994--which is pretty amazing to think about--and I first read it in 2000. It is vibrant, honest, radical, and transformative. Rereading it again 20 years later has proven two things: 1) hooks has inspired immeasurable change in education; and 2) we *still* are adhering to outmoded systems of hierarchy within schools. One benefit of the pandemic and teaching virtually will be an opportunity for feminist teachers and teachers committed to equity and justice to revise and re-envision approaches to teaching that can diminish a student's access to freedom of thought and expression. Now is the time!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    "When we, as educators, allow our pedagogy to be radically changed by our recognition of a multicultural world, we can give students the education they desire and deserve. We can teach in ways that transform consciousness, creating a climate of free expression that is the essence of a truly liberatory liberal arts education." Each essay in this collection examines ways teachers must transgress within the classroom--ultimately, how to transgress normative professorial behaviors, such as lecturing "When we, as educators, allow our pedagogy to be radically changed by our recognition of a multicultural world, we can give students the education they desire and deserve. We can teach in ways that transform consciousness, creating a climate of free expression that is the essence of a truly liberatory liberal arts education." Each essay in this collection examines ways teachers must transgress within the classroom--ultimately, how to transgress normative professorial behaviors, such as lecturing without discussion or having discussion that avoids class/gender/racial/language differences. hooks argues for a feminist classroom that questions basic assumptions of pedagogy. For instance, the study of 'whiteness,' sharing confessional narratives and connecting content to personal experience, respecting individual voices. It is more a theoretical book than a practical one--by that I mean it concerns the ideology of teaching rather than discussing specific ways to implement transgressive teaching. Because of that, I think it would make a great companion piece to a workshop or class on pedagogy, so that there could be a discussion of the principles she outlines, and then a discussion of how to implement those ideas in the classroom. I agree with much she has to say. My first semester teaching, I emulated the lecturing professor hook critiques, and I found by the end of the semester I hated that way of teaching. The students were bored, only a very few were learning anything, and I enjoy teaching more when the students are as involved in the class as I am. I also hated speaking for 50 minutes straight. So the next semester I changed my methodology, and every semester I try to improve upon it to make my classrooms more engaged (my reason for reading this over the summer), and every semester I get better. Part of the way I've improved is by including more personal experiences, and connecting content to the students, which she also suggests. I've also limited my authority in the classroom, and allowed the students to feel more at ease in my class. Much of this is done by learning student names within the first week, speaking to the students before, during, and after class, learning about them as individuals. Ways I plan to improve after reading this is to be more confrontational with discussion. I also need to be more flexible, which is terribly difficult for me. I've never been good at improv. I do think her arguments could be updated, and there were some areas I took slightly different views on. hooks fails to take into account learning differences. Some students thrive on constant discussion of personal experiences, or constant discussions in general, but some also shut down, or require more time to process. My favorite classes in undergrad were my lecture classes, because I learn and think best on my own. So after receiving a bulk of info, I could process it over several week's time, and my engagement would then be shown through written responses versus discussion. I rarely spoke in class. What I've found as a teacher is that some students thrive on active discussion, most on some discussion and some processing, and a smaller number on active listening. And I do think there's such a thing as an active listener. And that's great. Sometimes it's difficult to get them to speak in class, but when they finally do, they have some wonderful things to say! Mainly, I think the text could be updated in terms of how she views the academic world. In several chapters she discusses what it means to be a professor and how professors relate to one another and to their students. For instance, she discusses the need to take sabbaticals, how professors come from upper classes, etc. But in the academic world now, she is speaking from a place of privilege. In one section, she states "I encounter fewer and fewer academics from working-class backgrounds" and goes on to describe how that affects class relations with students. However, class dynamics have changed among professors from 1994 to 2016. I'm an adjunct. At the school I teach at, there's almost as many adjuncts as there are full-time professors. I know of English departments made up of only a few full-time professors--the rest are adjuncts. What that means is that many professors now, if not most, are working for minimum wage, or a little more. That changes some of her arguments concerning class dynamics, because being an adjunct professor is a working class profession. Most of my students come from wealthier backgrounds. Adjuncts don't get to consider sabbaticals, and often we don't get to pick the class material or class goals. This doesn't mean adjuncts can't be transgressive teachers, it just means it has to be done in different ways. In less fair ways. I'm also not sure how helpful this text would be to the professors she denounces, those who "lacked basic communication skills, they were not self-actualized, and they often used the classroom to enact rituals of control that were about domination and the unjust exercise of power." The book makes a great argument for critical pedagogy, but it doesn't actually explain how this is done for those professors who lack communication skills. That's why I think it's important for this to be a companion piece to a discussion of critical pedagogy with other professors. I also think it would be a great idea for professors to sit in on other professor's classrooms. This is required for education majors, yet most professors have never analyzed another person's teaching style. Overall, an excellent discussion, that certainly got my mind revved up for the fall semester!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diz

    This is the first book in a series by feminist scholar bell hooks on education. Key to her thoughts on education is that critical thinking and emotional engagement are important for real learning. I really enjoyed the chapters that focused on teaching practice, especially the ones where hooks relates her own classroom experiences. However, there are a few chapters in the middle of the book that are on feminist academia that don't relate directly to education. The content of these chapters is goo This is the first book in a series by feminist scholar bell hooks on education. Key to her thoughts on education is that critical thinking and emotional engagement are important for real learning. I really enjoyed the chapters that focused on teaching practice, especially the ones where hooks relates her own classroom experiences. However, there are a few chapters in the middle of the book that are on feminist academia that don't relate directly to education. The content of these chapters is good, but it feels off topic. Later books in this series have a stronger focus on the topic of education, so if you didn't enjoy this book, don't give up on the series.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Smith

    Of course, there were essays in this text that didn’t resonate as much with me, but hooks’s student-centered pedagogy is truly inspirational, making me wish I could return to the classroom on Monday with my students.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisen

    A book that should be mandatory reading for all teachers and students - about critical thinking, radical openness, AGAINST the western, white, male centred vision of education as order and silence on the part of the students, instead FOR education as the practice of freedom.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carla Sofia Sofia

    This should be required reading for every teacher.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    bell hooks forever. I’m not teaching and this was written in 1994, still this book is relevant and inspiring.

  26. 5 out of 5

    rosa guac

    the English language can’t begin to describe the affect this book had on me, so I leave you with emojis: 🥺😭✨🧠🤲🍓🤭🤔🤯🗣😪🧐😞💀😤

  27. 5 out of 5

    Althea J.

    This book gets all the stars. If you're frustrated with the world and actually want to do something about it, something revolutionary, affect actual change... TEACH. bell hooks speaks of the need to spark excitement for learning. She cites the liberation of minds as one of the key functions of education. She calls the classroom a radical space of possibility, and in Teaching to Transgress, she explains how teaching is a means of enacting progressive values of diversity, inclusion, and multicultura This book gets all the stars. If you're frustrated with the world and actually want to do something about it, something revolutionary, affect actual change... TEACH. bell hooks speaks of the need to spark excitement for learning. She cites the liberation of minds as one of the key functions of education. She calls the classroom a radical space of possibility, and in Teaching to Transgress, she explains how teaching is a means of enacting progressive values of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. No more education as the transmission of information. Instead, real education calls for a student's active engagement in a learning process that is inclusive of a multiplicity of voices and encourages the interrogation of biases and boundaries via critical awareness. -- this is the cruxt of the transformational pedagogy that hooks advocates. Throughout Teaching to Transgress, hooks offers strategies for how to enact this transformational pedagogy by educating for critical consciousness. She emphasizes how change is required in both the curriculum (the material and ideas being taught) AND teaching practices, in ways that are progressive and promoting of inclusion. Some of the strategies at the heart of the change that hooks advocates include: - making the classroom a democratic setting where everybody feels responsible to contribute, building a community of learners - fostering a spirit of intellectual openness - interrogating biases - incorporating a multiplicity of voices, of the students themselves (see above) and the material (see below) - shifting away from the traditional understanding of a single norm of thought and experience (the West-centered patriarchal imperialist hegemony), to approaching a subject multiple ways with multiple references In addition to laying out actual strategies that teachers can bring into their classrooms, hooks also reflects on her experiences of challenges that have arisen when invoking these changes. She's calling for a paradigm shift and acknowledges that change is hard for both teachers and the students being asked to engage in this different approach to learning. Her experience is VALUABLE, as is her discussion of how she's dealt with the challenges that have arisen. These ideas of inclusion and critical consciousness are great, but I think this book is particularly helpful and inspiring because hooks addresses important questions like, How can one teach without reinforcing existing systems of domination (sexism, racism, classism, colonialism, etc.)? How does one address the different voices of a diverse classroom and the issues that arise in differences of race, sex, language, class backgrounds, levels of understanding, and concerns? Written in 1994, these ideas were a real departure from the traditional understanding of education. When I went to grad school in 2004, the ideas like those put forth by hooks in this book were central to the approach at Teachers College Columbia University, where I was exposed to concepts like constructivism and the changing role of teacher as facilitator as opposed to lecturer. However, with the ever-present focus on standardized testing as a means of accounting for learning, I seriously wonder if this transformational pedagogy has taken hold in actual classrooms throughout the country. THAT IS WHY THIS BOOK IS SO IMPORTANT!! This book is inspiring and hopeful! The ideas are progressive and hooks offers concrete methods for enacting change. I want to put this book in the hand of every young person who is grappling with what to do with their life. Every disillusioned revolutionary that I encounter in online spaces like Tumblr, where ideas of inclusion are so prominent. People looking to shift from abstract progressive ideas into taking action that has real results. TL;DR Want to spark actual change in the world? Read this book and become a teacher.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    AHHHHH WHY DIDN'T I READ THIS SOONER. Seriously, this book was great beyond my wildest expectations. I would put it alongside Duncan Kennedy's Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy as something that all folks who are planning on going to law school should read. So much of what bell hooks says is resonant and insightful, particularly the parts about invoking personal experience in the classroom and the fear of teachers from non-privileged groups to use non-hierarchical teaching methods. AHHHHH WHY DIDN'T I READ THIS SOONER. Seriously, this book was great beyond my wildest expectations. I would put it alongside Duncan Kennedy's Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy as something that all folks who are planning on going to law school should read. So much of what bell hooks says is resonant and insightful, particularly the parts about invoking personal experience in the classroom and the fear of teachers from non-privileged groups to use non-hierarchical teaching methods. The commentary on the relationship between white and black women also provides fundamental grounding for her critique of broader feminist theory. I plan to see if I can get some of my favorite law school teachers to read this book and discuss it with me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dee

    I was constantly pumping my fist in the air and shouting in reverence as I read this book. She makes the art of teaching so appealing in her descriptions of the potential liberatory effects on students' minds. Beautiful. She also so eloquently and poignantly critiques current scholars (along with the US culture in general) and our so deeply ingrained racism and sexism (and other isms) even among people who consider ourselves "progressive" and "feminist."

  30. 5 out of 5

    William

    Essential reading for anyone looking to build a learning community.

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